France: Roma immigrants evicted, travelling community kept from halting
British newspaper The Independent reported on 16 August that a shantytown known as Samaritain in La Courneuve suburb north of Paris was slated for demolition "within days". The 80 families living there, most of them Romani, were not scheduled for rehousing by the local council.
Samaritain is described by the paper as "France's oldest shantytown". It reportedly features walls of rubbish and is infested with rats.
Drinking water is not available there. The slum is named after a chapel adjacent to its entrance.
Mayor Gilles Poux (Communist Party) ordered Samaritain evacuated in 2013 as part of a campaign to get rid of 11 locals slums, and Samaritain is the last to go. Earlier this month police informed the founder of the shantytown, Pentecostal pastor Ioan Titel, that it would be cleared by the end of the month.
The English-language edition of Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported that because the mayor is legally able to reappropriate the land beneath the slum, it was scheduled for demolition starting Saturday 22 August. It is variously described as having been established in either 2007 or 2008.
Resident Jozsef Farkas, who is 17 years old, began an online petition asking that the demolition be halted which has gathered 38 357 signatures to date. RFI English reports that 300 people would be affected by the eviction.
Pierre Chopinaud, director of La Voix des Rroms, a French NGO advocating for Romani people, told RFI they "are still open to... find a solution" with the municipality. A post to the group's website dated 22 August alleges that the "only public support" Poux has received for the demolition is from the ultra-right Front National party.
France's Defender of Rights issued a statement on 18 August calling on authorities to respect the right of the Samaritain residents to be rehoused. That statement describes them as originally from Romania.
Trenches keep travelling community off of French village's green space
British newspaper The Telegraph reported on 18 August that Alain Blondeau, the independent right-wing mayor of Wavrin in northern France, has dug 12 ditches on that village's green spaces to prevent the travelling community from halting their caravans there. Some locals say the trenches look like castle moats.
The paper reports that the work cost approximately €28 000 and the village of 7 000 is divided as to whether it was necessary. “It’s awful. They could have put fences ... as has been done before,” a resident told the local France 3 radio station.
Another resident told the France Bleu Nord radio station that he agreed with the mayor's methods. Approximately 100 caravans halted in Wavrin two months ago and stayed for two weeks, according to the paper.
Blondeau was quoted on France Bleu Nord as saying: "Even if some of these people are respectful, you have to clean up after them and provide water and electricity. That costs the town money. I don’t have a strip of land to welcome them at present and am doing my best."
Online news server TheLocal.fr reported that the work was ordered at the beginning of June. Local opposition councilor Martine Demande said the mayor did not consult with anyone on the decision.
French newspaper Le Figaro quoted her as saying, “There was no discussion with the mayor beforehand. It’s quite shocking."
TheLocal.fr reports that by not providing land to travelling communities, Wavrin is breaking the Bresson law, which obliges municipalities with more than 5 000 inhabitants to offer space to them. RFI English reported on 10 June that the French lower house voted to end the requiring of travel permits for members of the travelling communities, with human rights groups and minority representatives welcoming the move.
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